Updated: December 18, 2009 at 12:00 am
Pam Brady stood outside the City Administration Building last Thursday, softly crying.
It was “retirement” day for her and fellow zoning inspector Ginna Sanders. A party was planned.
I thought Brady would be happy. After 16 years, she’s no longer responsible for enforcing Colorado Springs’ zoning codes.
Her phone will no longer ring with complaints about backyard butcher shops or midnight home mechanics or unlicensed plumbers tapping neighbor’s sewers.
Yet Brady cried.
“We defend neighborhoods,” she said. “I don’t want to retire.”
But city budget cuts put Brady, 58, and Sanders, 62, at risk of layoffs. So both retired. Grudgingly.
Neighbors should be shedding a tear to see them go.
“They’ve been neighborhoods’ best friends,” said Dave Munger, president of the Council of Neighbors and Organizations, or CONO, the association of city neighborhood groups.
“CONO has said to City Council that we’d like them to find other ways to keep those people employed to protect neighborhoods,” he said. “Their work is the key to upholding neighborhood standards.
“They’ve been great friends to neighborhoods, against terrific odds.”
Munger described Brady and Sanders as fearless in the battle to protect the quality of life and property values in Springs neighborhoods.
“They were the first line of defense against people who want to use residential buildings in ways that are not appropriate and not safe for neighborhoods,” Munger said.
Over the years, Brady and Sanders drove body shops out of neighborhoods after complaints of noxious fumes and paint drifting into neighbors’ homes.
They confronted immigrants who thought it was OK to park in their front yards and raise goats, chickens, llamas, pigs and rabbits in their backyards. And slaughter them there.
They shut down illegal recycling operations that produced trash flying around surrounding homes.
But they’ve done more than just enforce codes. They’ve educated people about the law, helped them conform to zoning rules and get their properties into compliance, when possible.
In the process, they routinely worked massive caseloads, each carrying 100 open cases or more at a time. Sadly for neighborhoods, two of the three zoning inspector positions were lost as part of the city’s reduction which resulted in 93 layoffs and 88 retirements announced last week.
The lone surviving zoning inspector is moving to the Police Department’s code enforcement unit.
Sanders is sad, but proud of her 12-year zoning career.
“We’ve tried to make the city a better place.” Sanders said. “I believe we made a difference.”
Brady is heartbroken.
“I’m a native and I love my city,” Brady said. “I just wanted to help.”
See them on my blog atâ€¨ gazette.com/blogs/sidestreets